The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Hungary: Ferrari Falter Again


By Jack Target

The last week has been a hard one for Scuderia Ferrari. 

After Sebastian Vettel blew the chance to win his home race in Germany and extend his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the championship, Ferrari lost its innovative Chairman and CEO and yet another race to the hands of Mercedes.

Ferrari staff sported black armbands and a black stripe across the nose of the car in honour of Sergio Marchionne, who tragecially passed away at the age of 66 last week. They would have hoped to do him proud by going in to the summer break on a high, however, they had to settle for two podium places with neither driver on the top step.

It was a massive win for Mercedes. The Ferraris and Red Bull had looked quickest in practice and this may have been set up for Red Bull to get win number four of the season. However the strange conditions in qualifying threw up a few surprises. 

Although it had been raining heavily early in the day, the track was drying up. All cars started on the intermediate tyres but there were callings for the slicks to come on. What ensued was one of the most interesting Q1’s of the season.

The back markers were the first to get on the dry tyres and sure enough they ended up going straight to the top with the likes of Carlos Sainz in the Renault and later Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. In fact it was even more strange than expected because the big three teams  were very late to react. More curious still was Red Bull putting Daniel Ricciardo on a set of soft tyres rather than super soft. It proved a bad move when the Aussie moved up a grand total of three places to 17th after his first stint. 

He eventually made it in to Q2 but would go no further, qualifying in 12th. His teammate also had a poor showing in conditions you would have thought he would have relished. Max Verstappen could only take his Red Bull to 7th, behind Sainz and Pierre Gasly. His team, Toro Rosso, even managed to get both cars in to Q2. It was a very good weekend for Italy’s second team as Gasly finished the race in 6th with Brendon Hartley only just missing out on a points finish. 

One team also had a poor week that continued in to the weekend were Force India. They had been put in to administration, although we are being told this is a good thing, before both cars went out in Q1.

It looked like Ferrari had played the weather perfectly throughout the remainder of qualifying. Vettel was the first to go out in Q2 on intermediates when everyone else was watching the rain coming down and looking at their wet tyres. The German set the fastest lap and watched as everyone struggled in the increasingly damp conditions. 

Although Q3 was a struggle the top two teams were getting in the groove, with Hamilton pulling out a great lap before beating it again. Vettel did look like he could get pole but caught up behind his own teammate in traffic and missed out not only on pole but the front row too. 

Mercedes made it a front two when Bottas took initial pole before Hamilton’s dominant lap.

With the rain the day before, teams could choose what tyres to start the race on. Interestingly Sainz and Vettel were the only cars in the top ten starting on the soft tyres. It was clear Ferrari wanted to leave him out there long enough to build up some time and hope rain or safety cars could work to their advantage.

Vettel had a tardy start on Sunday but moved round the outside of Raikkonen to get up in to third in the first lap, but never endangered the Mercs. Hamilton had a great start and built some distance between himself and his teammate Valtteri Bottas.

There were some early retirements as Charles Leclerc had a mechanical issue very early on before disaster struck once again for Red Bull. Verstappen was doing well after getting in to 5th but his car lost power and he coasted to a standstill. After Ricciardo’s performance in qualifying, this was turning in to a huge missed opportunity for Red Bull. Over the team radio the young Dutchman used some choice words that made the production team use their bleeper quite a few times and you have to say he had a point. Too many times Red Bull have had one engine  issue or another and it has seriously affected their season. They may not be able to challenge Mercedes or Ferrari for any titles but they could certainly have been up there and threatening. All this and yet they still have three wins this season. Team principal Christian Horner confirmed it was an engine issue which will no doubt mean more heated words between him and Renault over the summer. 

Back at the front and Ferrari were about to give us a preview of how the race would go for the Tifosi. Raikkonen was the first to go in to the pits, very early it was too, but for the first of many times the pit crew had difficulty with the tyre change and caused the Finn some valuable time. They would make the same mistake later with Vettel. A two second mistake that would later be the difference between the German coming out in front of Bottas and on the hunt for Hamilton, to what actually happened. He remained stuck behind his teammate and then Bottas for far too long as Hamilton created one of the biggest race leads of the season. 

When Vettel did pit he had 30 laps to try and battle with the Mercedes’. He should have been out in front of one of them but had to wait. It took until 14 laps to go for Vettel to be within range of the Merc, but he couldn’t find a way round one Finn, whilst the other in the Ferrari was closing up on him. There was much debate in commentary whether Ferrari should let Kimi have a stab at getting past Bottas but instead they waited. Maybe they knew the win was out of sight and just wanted Sebby to get as many points as possible. 

Finally with five laps to go, Vettel pulled off the overtake on Bottas, going round the inside of turn two before going round the outside in turn three. It nearly didn’t work as Bottas, who was struggling with grip at that point, came back across the track and hit the back of the Ferrari. Thankfully for Vettel, he was fine and it allowed Raikkonen to jump up to the podium place too. The incident ended up costing Bottas a lot more than a podium place as he was losing downforce due to front wing damage and ended up being overtaken by Ricciardo late on. 

In the end Hamilton won by 17 seconds. He absolutely smashed a race he was not expecting to win. It leaves Mercedes in the great position of leading the constructors championship going in to the summer break with a 10 point lead. More importantly, Hamilton now leads Vettel by 24 points.

Who really knows if the shocking news of Sergio Marchionne’s passing would have affected the mood in the garage at Ferrari in Hungary. He was clearly an instrumental figure in not only the motor industry (with his incredible turn around at Fiat) but with the Formula 1 team who look like contenders again. The summer break may have come at the right time. Three weeks to regroup, then start chasing down Hamilton in Mercedes at one of the best tracks on the calendar. Bring on Spa.